As severe flooding hit Victoria on October 14, their concerns were confirmed as the flood wall forced water in to housing developments and industrial estates along the valley floor.
The State Emergency Services confirmed the next day that more than 245 homes in Maribyrnong were inundated by flood water. Aerial footage showed the Flemington Race Course grounds were unaffected.
Flood-affected residents are angry, saying the floodgate wall made the flood impacts worse. Some told The Age that it had directed flood water away from the natural floodplain into their homes.
Socialist Alliance (SA) Merri-bek councillor Sue Bolton told Green Left the flood wall should never have been built.
“The community knew what would likely happen, and it did. It’s yet another example of a government that prioritises big business interests over the livelihoods of working people.”
Bolton, who is standing for SA in Pascoe Vale, said it was heartening to see residents come together to clean up the flood-affected homes and coordinate their efforts through the Flood Warriors Facebook group.
Their anger was further triggered when Dale Monteith, Racing Club chief executive and chairman of Harness Racing Victoria, tweeted praise that the flood wall preserved Flemington Race Course. The tweet has since been deleted.
Andrew Jones, CEO of Horse Racing Victoria (HRV), responded to criticism saying it was entitled to build the wall to protect its property, even while acknowledging it had “unintended consequences” for near-by residents.
A discussion has started about whether HRV should pay compensation to flood-affected residents. Carbone Lawyers will be looking into a potential class action against the Victoria Racing’s wall.
Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell criticised Labor for approving the flood wall years ago. She said it was an example of “protecting the profits of the horse racing and gambling industry above the needs of residents”. She said the racecourse should hold floodwater, rather than divert it to other areas.
Under pressure, Melbourne Water (MW) confirmed on October 16 it will review whether the Flemington Race Course flood wall contributed to the flooding.
Concerns have been raised about the objectivity of this review, given MW’s role in approving the flood wall.
The Age on October 16 reported that hydrology and flood warning expert Geoff Crapper, responsible for Melbourne’s flood warning service at Melbourne Water from 1989 to 2003, had wanted the Steve Brack Labor government to build a dam around the Maribyrnong River. He said hundreds of homes, inundated in the recent floods, could have been saved.